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Major works and themes
Dickens great gift was inventiveness. He created whole worlds of characters, exaggerated but
unforgettable. Dickens symphathies with the oppressed, shows indignation against social injustice.
-“Oliver Twist” marks the beginning of social criticism= exploitation of children and the cruelty of
the workhouses.
-“A Christmas Carol” = a conversion of a (..) to the spirit of Christmas.
- “David Copperfield” =(a coming of age novel, the most autobiographical)
-“Bleak house”= a satire on English administration of justice.
- “Hard Times”= bearing on education and on the hardships of the working class during the
industrial revolution.
Dickens plot
The effect of serial publication on the structure, tone and content of the novels were considerable.
Dickens needed to maintain interest from one episode to another. He ends each episode with
dramatic turn of events that provoked suspense in the reader who would naturally buy the next issue
to learn how the story continued. This accounts for the abundance of characters, of climaxes and of
improbable coincidences in the plot and sub-plot as a whole.
Dickens’ characters
His characters are portrayed as caricatures embodying particular vices or virtues rather than as reallife people with psychological depth. Some of this characters have become part of the English
language. For example “Fagin” (from “Oliver Twist”) is synonym of “thief”
An Urban novelist
Dickens’ characters are people from all walks of life: gentlemen, lawyers, industrialist, laboures…
Most of them were city dwellers. He was fascinated by urban life; many of his novels were set in
London, but there were exceptions: “Hard times” was set in Coketown, a typical grim town
probably inspired by Preston, in the industrial North of England.
Dickens’ legacy in the English language
Dickensian= of a reminiscent of the novels of Charles Dickens, especially in suggesting the poor
social condition or comically repulsive characters that they portray. His influence on the English
language is multi-layered and articulated. He had a fundamental role in spreading words that
already existed in English, but were totally unknown. He also used popular slang expression such as
“butter fingers”. Proper names became legendary; Scrooge itself means “a miserable and mean
The plot of Dickens’s novels
His novels were influenced by the Bible, fairytales, fables and nursery rhymes by the 18th century
novelist and essayist, and by gothic novels. His plots are well planned even if they sound a bit
artificial, sentimental and episodic publication in montly or weekly instolments create pressure on
dickens to confirm the public taste. London was the setting for most of his novels. His middle class
characters are often stirised, He developed a radical social view. He was aware of the spiritual and
material corruption under the impact of industrialism. In his mature works he drew popular
attention to public abuse, evils and wrongs by juxtaposing terrible description of London misery
and crime with amusing sketches of the town.
Dickens created caricatures. He exaggerated and ridiculed the peculiar social characteristics of the
middle, lower and lowest classes. His female characters were weak and black and white. He was
always on the side of the poor and the outcast.
A didactic aim
He wants to teach and to entertain; he uses both an omniscient narrator either a 1st or 3rd person who
directly comments the development of the events and on an observer one who influences the readers
and leads him to share his point of view. Children are often the most important characters in his
novels. He gives instances of good children and worthless parents or hypocritical adults. He
reverses the natural order of things, by making children the moral teachers instead of the taught, the
examples instead of the imitators. He makes his readers love his children and putting the forward as
models of the way people ought to behave to one another. This didactic position was very effective,
since the results was that the more educated, the wealthier classes throughout England acquired a
knowledge of their poorer neighbor of which many were previously ignorant. His task was never to
induce revolution, or even encourage discontent, but to get the common intelligence of the country,
in all its different classes alike, to alleviate suffering against social injustice.
Style and reputation
He employed the most effective language and gives powerful descriptions of life and characters by
means of a careful choice of adjectives, repetitions of words and structures, juxtaposition of images
and ideas and ironic remarks. Use of humors and grotesque register.
Good and bad
According to Dickens the good is always rewarded. While the bad is punished so there is the
necessity of a balance to be maintain and the existence of a sort of destiny or fad god looking on all
human actions. The good character is always good and it is not corrupted by the evil around him.
Children are the leading characters in many of Dickens’s novels. He denounces the abuse or
exploitation of children and the pragmatic and purely national education imposed in the Victorian
schools. Like the romantics he considered children as symbols of innocence. Their age is considered
the most important phase in shaping the Victorian individuals as a model of virtue, endourance
against social injustice.
London is a busy chaotic city divided into suburbs corresponding to different social classes. The
perfect site for villains like Fagin in “Oliver Twist”. East London becomes a mysterious end and
menacing labyrinth, while the good prevails in the rich West and suburbs. He distinguished between
two cities separated by a sort of no-man’s land which is London bridge. He also distinguished
between two social classes. From “Oliver Twist” award he portrays a third city and his characters
now move freely across the three areas. The third London becomes the real and the narrative space
of the dominant middle class.
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